Thursday, September 13, 2007

NY Court rules Gay Married Benefits Legal

Court Rules NYS Gay Married Benefits Legal
by Newscenter Staff
Posted: September 11, 2007 - 1:30 pm ET
(Albany, New York) An Albany court has dismissed a challenge to a decision by New York State's Comptroller that treats out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples the same as any other legal marriage in terms of benefits afforded to state employees through the New York State Retirement System.
In 2004 in response to an inquiry by a gay state employee wanting to know if his retirement benefits would cover his family if he went to Canada to legally marry his partner, New York State Comptroller at the time, Alan Hevesi, stated that, “Based on current law, the retirement system will recognize a same-sex Canadian marriage in the same manner as an opposite-sex New York marriage under the principle of comity. That principle has been legal practice pursuant to New York Court of Appeals rulings for many years.”
The New York State Comptroller is the sole trustee of the retirement system - the biggest state plan in the country - which includes 334,000 retirees and 648,000 current employees.
Hevesi’s interpretation of the law matched that of then Attorney General, now Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who also said that, under the state’s current laws, same-sex couples who legally married in other jurisdictions should be treated as any other married couple in New York State.
The Alliance Defend Fund, an Arizona- based organization that regularly fights LGBT issues, filed the suit, citing the July 2006 ruling by the Court of Appeals - the state's highest court - that upheld New York's ban on same-sex marriage. (story)
In dismissing the suit judge Thomas J. McNamara said that case did not apply to the question raised by the ADF since the issue before the Court of Appeals had only addressed whether same-sex couples could marry in the state, not whether marriages performed outside of New York State should be considered legal here.
The policy of the Comptroller to recognize same-sex Canadian marriages in the same manner as opposite-sex New York marriages…is legal and not contrary to law,” McNamara said in his written ruling.
“This ruling is further proof that public and private entities in New York State need to respect the legal out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples in exactly the same way they respect any other marriage,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.
The issue that Hevesi addressed for the purpose of retirement benefits involved only same-sex marriages from Canada. Following today's ruling by Judge McNamara, Hevesi's successor, Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the retirement system would be recognizing all legal out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples and not just those from Canada.
This will include same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts, Spain, Netherlands, South Africa and Belgium.
The ADF has not said if it will appeal today's ruling.

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